Best of the Week
Most Popular
1. US Housing Market Real Estate Crash The Next Shoe To Drop – Part II - Chris_Vermeulen
2.The Coronavirus Greatest Economic Depression in History? - Nadeem_Walayat
3.US Real Estate Housing Market Crash Is The Next Shoe To Drop - Chris_Vermeulen
4.Coronavirus Stock Market Trend Implications and AI Mega-trend Stocks Buying Levels - Nadeem_Walayat
5. Are Coronavirus Death Statistics Exaggerated? Worse than Seasonal Flu or Not?- Nadeem_Walayat
6.Coronavirus Stock Market Trend Implications, Global Recession and AI Stocks Buying Levels - Nadeem_Walayat
7.US Fourth Turning Accelerating Towards Debt Climax - James_Quinn
8.Dow Stock Market Trend Analysis and Forecast - Nadeem_Walayat
9.Britain's FAKE Coronavirus Death Statistics Exposed - Nadeem_Walayat
10.Commodity Markets Crash Catastrophe Charts - Rambus_Chartology
Last 7 days
How Sony Is Fueling the Computer Vision Boom - 3rd Aug 20
Computer Gaming System Rig Top Tips For 6 Years Future Proofing Build Spec - 3rd Aug 20
Cornwwall Bude Caravan Park Holidays 2020 - Look Inside Holiday Resort Caravan - 3rd Aug 20
UK Caravan Park Holidays 2020 Review - Hoseasons Cayton Bay North East England - 3rd Aug 20
Best Travel Bags for 2020 Summer Holidays , Back Sling packs, water proof, money belt and tactical - 3rd Aug 20
Precious Metals Warn Of Increased Volatility Ahead - 2nd Aug 20
The Key USDX Sign for Gold and Silver - 2nd Aug 20
Corona Crisis Will Have Lasting Impact on Gold Market - 2nd Aug 20
Gold & Silver: Two Pictures - 1st Aug 20
The Bullish Case for Stocks Isn't Over Yet - 1st Aug 20
Is Gold Price Action Warning Of Imminent Monetary Collapse - Part 2? - 1st Aug 20
Will America Accept the World's Worst Pandemic Response Government - 1st Aug 20
Stock Market Technical Patterns, Future Expectations and More – Part II - 1st Aug 20
Trump White House Accelerating Toward a US Dollar Crisis - 31st Jul 20
Why US Commercial Real Estate is Set to Get Slammed - 31st Jul 20
Gold Price Blows Through Upside Resistance - The Chase Is On - 31st Jul 20
Is Crude Oil Price Setting Up for a Waterfall Decline? - 31st Jul 20
Stock Market Technical Patterns, Future Expectations and More - 30th Jul 20
Why Big Money Is Already Pouring Into Edge Computing Tech Stocks - 30th Jul 20
Economic and Geopolitical Worries Fuel Gold’s Rally - 30th Jul 20
How to Finance an Investment Property - 30th Jul 20
I Hate Banks - Including Goldman Sachs - 29th Jul 20
NASDAQ Stock Market Double Top & Price Channels Suggest Pending Price Correction - 29th Jul 20
Silver Price Surge Leaves Naysayers in the Dust - 29th Jul 20
UK Supermarket Covid-19 Shop - Few Masks, Lack of Social Distancing (Tesco) - 29th Jul 20
Budgie Clipped Wings, How Long Before it Can Fly Again? - 29th Jul 20
How To Take Advantage Of Tesla's 400% Stock Surge - 29th Jul 20
Gold Makes Record High and Targets $6,000 in New Bull Cycle - 28th Jul 20
Gold Strong Signal For A Secular Bull Market - 28th Jul 20
Anatomy of a Gold and Silver Precious Metals Bull Market - 28th Jul 20
Shopify Is Seizing an $80 Billion Pot of Gold - 28th Jul 20
Stock Market Minor Correction Underway - 28th Jul 20
Why College Is Never Coming Back - 27th Jul 20
Stocks Disconnect from Economy, Gold Responds - 27th Jul 20
Silver Begins Big Upside Rally Attempt - 27th Jul 20
The Gold and Silver Markets Have Changed… What About You? - 27th Jul 20
Google, Apple And Amazon Are Leading A $30 Trillion Assault On Wall Street - 27th Jul 20
This Stock Market Indicator Reaches "Lowest Level in Nearly 20 Years" - 26th Jul 20
New Wave of Economic Stimulus Lifts Gold Price - 26th Jul 20
Stock Market Slow Grind Higher Above the Early June Stock Highs - 26th Jul 20
How High Will Silver Go? - 25th Jul 20
If You Own Gold, Look Out Below - 25th Jul 20
Crude Oil and Energy Sets Up Near Major Resistance – Breakdown Pending - 25th Jul 20
FREE Access to Premium Market Forecasts by Elliott Wave International - 25th Jul 20
The Promise of Silver as August Approaches: Accumulation and Conversation - 25th Jul 20
The Silver Bull Gateway is at Hand - 24th Jul 20
The Prospects of S&P 500 Above the Early June Highs - 24th Jul 20
How Silver Could Surpass Its All-Time High - 24th Jul 20
China Recovered in Q2. Will the Red Dragon Sink Gold? - 23rd Jul 20
UK Covid19 MOT 6 Month Extensions Still Working Late July 2020? - 23rd Jul 20
How Did the Takeaway Apps Stocks Perform During the Lockdown? - 23rd Jul 20
US Stock Market Stalls Near A Double Peak - 23rd Jul 20
Parking at Lands End Car Park Cornwall - UK Holidays 2020 - 23rd Jul 20
Translating the Gold Index Signal into Gold Target - 23rd Jul 20
Weakness in commodity prices suggests a slowing economy - 23rd Jul 20
This Stock Market Stinks - But Not Why You May Think - 22nd Jul 20
Protracted G7 Economic Contraction – or Multiyear Global Depression - 22nd Jul 20
Gold and Oil: Be Aware of the "Spike" - 22nd Jul 20
US Online Casino Demographics: Who Plays Online For Money? - 22nd Jul 20
Machine Intelligence Quantum AI Stocks Mega-Trend Forecast 2020 to 2035! - 21st Jul 20
How to benefit from the big US Infrastructure push - 21st Jul 20
Gold and gold mining stocks are entering a strong seasonal phase - 21st Jul 20
Silver Eyes Key Breakout Levels as Inflation Heats Up - 21st Jul 20
Gold During Coronavirus Recession and Beyond - 21st Jul 20
US Election 2020: ‘A Major Bear Market of Political Decency’ - 21st Jul 20
Summertime Sizzle for Gold and Silver - 21st Jul 20
Overclockers UK Custom Built PC Review - Delivery and Unboxing (3) - 21st Jul 20
Will Coronavirus Vaccines Become a Bridge to Nowhere? - 20th Jul 20
Stock Market Time for Caution?  - 20th Jul 20
ClickTrades Review - The Importance of Dynamic Analysis and Educational Tools in Online Trading - 20th Jul 20
US Housing Market Collapse Second Phase Pending - 20th Jul 20
Capitalising on the AI Mega-trend - 20th Jul 20
Getting Started with Machine Learning - 20th Jul 20
Why Moores Law is NOT Dead! - 20th Jul 20
Help the Economy by Going Outside - 19th Jul 20
Stock Market Fantasy Finance: Follow the Money - 19th Jul 20
Did the Stock Market Bubble Just Pop? - 19th Jul 20
Quick Souring of the S&P 500 Stock Market Mood - 19th Jul 20
The Six-Year Jobs Recession - 19th Jul 20
Silver Demand Exploding! - 18th Jul 20
Tesco Scraps Covid Safe One Way Arrow Supermarket Shopping System - 18th Jul 20
The Rise of Online Pawnbroking - 17th Jul 20
Gold Rallies Together With U.S. Covid-19 Cases - 17th Jul 20
Gold & Silver Measured Moves - 17th Jul 20
The Bizarre Mathematics Of How Negative Interest Rates Create Stratospheric Profits - 17th Jul 20
From a Stocks Bull Market Far, Far Away, Virus Doomsday Scenerio! - 16th Jul 20
Fiscal Cliffs and the Self-destructing Treasury - 16th Jul 20
Dow Stock Market Crash Watch - Update - 16th Jul 20
Gold & Silver Gaining on US Dollar Weakness - 16th Jul 20
How to Find the Best Stocks to Invest In - 16th Jul 20
Overclockers UK Custom Build PC Review - 2. System Build Changes Communications - 16th Jul 20

Market Oracle FREE Newsletter

How to Get Rich Investing in Stocks by Riding the Electron Wave

In Defense of Deflation

Economics / Deflation Aug 10, 2010 - 07:05 AM GMT

By: Douglas_French

Economics

Best Financial Markets Analysis ArticleThe Obama stimulus and bailouts haven't decreased unemployment rates or bankruptcy filings while home prices and home sales have fallen and can't get up. PIMCO's Bill Gross told Bloomberg this can all be fixed with nearly zero interest rates and additional debt to stimulate the animal spirits of investors and entrepreneurs. The federal-funds rate has been pegged at 0 to .25% since December 16, 2008, and Uncle Sam's debt is $13.3 trillion and counting. If this hasn't goosed the animal spirits, what will?


The failure of central bankers to make things all better again by creating some money and lowering some interest rates has the financial press fretting about deflation and thinking the US economy is turning Japanese. James Bullard, who heads the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, came out with a paper entitled "Seven Faces of 'The Peril'." He concludes that the Federal Open Market Committee's (FOMC's) "extended period language may be increasing the probability of a Japanese-style outcome for the U.S." To avoid that outcome, Bullard argues that the Fed's most important tool is quantitative easing — printing money to buy government debt.

The Wall Street Journal's James B. Stewart claims deflation is bad because "deflation erodes profits and asset values," in his "Smartmoney" column.

People wait to buy expecting lower prices, reducing demand. Lower profits cause companies to cut expenses, including employees. It is a downward spiral that, if Japan's experience is any indication, is difficult to arrest.

Mr. Stewart is wrong on all counts. Profits are the difference between the price we sell a good for and the price it costs to produce that good. As Jörg Guido Hülsmann makes clear in his book Deflation & Liberty, "In a deflation, both sets of prices drop, and as a consequence for-profit production can go on."

And while asset values may drop, the assets don't go away. The real wealth of the nation — assets used for production — are still available to produce. However, it may be that because the debt is liquidated on those assets as prices fall, new owners will own and operate the assets, but commerce and production will certainly carry on.

Lower prices increase demand; they do not reduce or delay it. That's why more and more people own flat-screen TVs, cellular telephones, and laptop computers: the prices of these goods have fallen, and people with lower incomes can afford them. And there are more low-income people than high-income people.

Lower prices don't mean lower profits; nor do they mean that employees will be laid off. More demand for a good or service means more employees needed to produce those goods and services. "There is no reason why inflation should ever reduce rather than increase unemployment," Hülsmann writes.

People become unemployed or remain unemployed when they do not wish to work, or if they are forcibly prevented from working for the wage rate an employer is willing to pay. Inflation does not change this fact.

Hülsmann goes on to point out that only if workers underestimate the amount of money created by the central bank and therefore reduce their real wage-rate demands will unemployment be reduced. "All plans to reduce unemployment through inflation therefore boil down to fooling the workers — a childish strategy, to say the least."

Of course, Mr. Bullard over at the St. Louis Fed doesn't mention anything in his paper about individuals attaining their goals through subjective knowledge and pricing decisions. Instead he draws lots of lines on graphs and talks about Taylor-type policy rule, zero bound, the Fisher relation, "targeted" steady states, and lots of stuff that has nothing to do with economics.

So while the bond-buying Mr. Gross says zero rates will arouse the animal spirits in all of us, Mr. Bullard worries that "promising to remain at zero for a long time is a double-edged sword." Bullard writes that zero rates are "consistent with the idea that inflation and inflation expectations should rise in response to [that] promise." But in the same paragraph he continues,

But the policy is also consistent with the idea that inflation and inflation expectations will instead fall, and that the economy will settle in the neighborhood of the unintended steady state, as Japan has in recent years.

Wow, no wonder Keynesian central banking is so hard. You're damned if you cut rates and damned if you don't. "I moved the line on the graph. Let's see some animal spirits for crying out loud!"

In the real world, banks aren't lending because, as Murray Rothbard points out in America's Great Depression, if rates are too low, bankers have no incentive to lend, especially in a risky economic environment. Also, as Professor Jeffrey Herbener wrote in the Asian Wall Street Journal, "with distressed banks, reflation fails to induce another bank credit expansion."

Keynesians have mistaken the impotency of the Bank of Japan to restart credit expansion in the 1990s as a liquidity trap. But the problem is not that interest rates are so low everyone expects them to rise and therefore hoards cash. Banks refuse to lend because of the overhang of bad debt. Any cash infusion is held as reserve against it. Businesses refuse to borrow because of their debt burden, built up to expand capacity during the boom, and their over-capacity resulting from their malinvestments.

Japan has tried every stimulus trick in the book — in addition to holding rates at zero — and still its economy has been in a funk for two decades. But firing a worker in Japan is virtually forbidden and don't get the idea that consumer prices have fallen through the floor. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), last year saw the biggest drop in consumer prices at 1.13%, after prices rose 1.4% the year before. The chart of Japan's inflation rate is essentially flat. Not exactly the deadly deflationary spiral it's made out to be.

Hülsmann explains that the Japanese government hasn't allowed deflation to heal their economy, with "the only result of this policy [being] to give a zombie life to the hopelessly bureaucratic and bankrupt conglomerates that control Japanese industry, banking and politics."

As for Bullard's quantitative-easing (QE) idea, the Bank of Japan has done plenty of it, buying not only government bonds but corporate debt and stocks as well. Bullard's colleagues over at the San Francisco Fed have studied whether it worked. In a 2006 report, Vice President Mark M. Spiegel wrote that QE lowered long-term interest rates and "there appears to be evidence that the program aided weaker Japanese banks and generally encouraged greater risk-tolerance in the Japanese financial system."

Spiegel concluded, "In strengthening the performance of the weakest Japanese banks, quantitative easing may have had the undesired impact of delaying structural reform."

"Deflation is one of the great scarecrows of present day economic policy and monetary policy in particular," Hülsmann told his Economics of Deflation class at this year's Mises University. It seems a nation will destroy its finances battling the nonthreat. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) says the Bank of Japan "needs to keep interest rates close to zero and continue its asset-purchase program until there is a 'definitive' end to deflation," Bloomberg reports. But in the same report the OECD worried that the Bank of Japan's ability to stimulate would be curtailed by Japan's public-debt-to-GDP ratio approaching 200%.

Sounds like the folks at the OECD, like Mr. Bullard, can't make up their minds. What Austrians know for sure is that, as Professor Hülsmann makes clear, "the dangers of deflation are chimerical, but its charms are very real." Inflation, on the other hand, only helps those who are massively indebted and inefficient — governments.

Douglas French is president of the Mises Institute and author of Early Speculative Bubbles & Increases in the Money Supply. He received his masters degree in economics from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, under Murray Rothbard with Professor Hans-Hermann Hoppe serving on his thesis committee. See his tribute to Murray Rothbard. Send him mail. See Doug French's article archives. Comment on the blog.

© 2010 Copyright Ludwig von Mises - All Rights Reserved Disclaimer: The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Information and analysis above are derived from sources and utilising methods believed to be reliable, but we cannot accept responsibility for any losses you may incur as a result of this analysis. Individuals should consult with their personal financial advisors.


© 2005-2019 http://www.MarketOracle.co.uk - The Market Oracle is a FREE Daily Financial Markets Analysis & Forecasting online publication.


Post Comment

Only logged in users are allowed to post comments. Register/ Log in

6 Critical Money Making Rules